By Brandon Tidwell
My eight year-old niece has adopted a new term: fail. It’s a definitive way to tell someone they didn’t measure up, they didn’t come through, or they simply missed the mark. As I’ve considered the most pressing sustainability issues of our time, businesses and non-profits are leading the way. Woefully absent is government policy that facilitates the shift our economy needs to advance and grow. Simply put, fail.
Last night, the Net Impact Conference opened with a panel discussion on the future of sustainable business, imagining our economy in 2020. As panelists from Ford, Verizon and BSR shared their perspectives, I had a pressing question: What is the role of the U.S. government in creating an environment to support businesses becoming more sustainable? FedEx has been advocating multiple times before Congress on this issue, as the key to advancing electric vehicles for delivery fleets is inextricably linked to the development of a smart grid infrastructure. Instead, the federal government is absent in its leadership role to establish sound energy policy, invest in infrastructure, or create the innovation agenda driving the future sustainable products and services we need to make our economy competitive in the long-term.
Ford’s Susan Cischke, VP at Ford Motor Company, pointed to the government’s failure to establish a proper energy pricing, reducing the incentive for consumers to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. Businesses are looking for ways to reduce their energy use and find alternatives, ranging from solar panels to Bloom Box technology. It’s difficult, though, to plan capital investments that use alternative energy when the market continues to reward fossil fuels. Whether it’s a carbon-tax or carbon trading, the U.S. government must establish a more consistent environment for companies to effectively plan for a more sustainable business environment.
Even more critical is the energy infrastructure we need to maximize current production and to create the platforms for the future. Additionally, transportation and planning infrastructure make an impact on mobility, the buildings we construct and the economic opportunities available to communities. Trillions of dollars are needed in the U.S. alone to maintain, let alone improve the highways, sewers, water treatment, and information systems we need to thrive. Today, though, government is more concerned about spending on programs for today rather than investing in tomorrow. I’m all for more efficient government and less spending, but knowing our history, railways, highways and airports have built our nation into an economic powerhouse. If we fail to invest, we’ll find ourselves behind China, Brazil and other emerging economies who are investing in infrastructure.
Building a sustainable business takes commitment and innovation. The onus is ultimately on consumers and business leaders. However, government must create the systems and policies that will allow them to build their future in a mindful way. Instead, it appears that leadership has chosen to abdicate its vital role in helping create the sustainable businesses climate for tomorrow. Unfortunately, our choices today will clearly impact the future of our nation’s prosperity and health. I hope the government will pay attention to its performance to date and make a focused effort to put the U.S. back into a role of global leadership.
Brandon Tidwell is Global Citizenship program advisor at FedEx. In 2011, Brandon starts his Executive MBA at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Brandon has his Masters in Social Work from Baylor University and a certificate in Philanthropy from NYU. He is also the 2010 recipient of Net Impact’s Force for Change Award.
By the way, this is Brandon’s personal contribution to Triple Pundit and only contains his own views, thoughts and opinions. It is not endorsed by FedEx nor does it constitute an official communication of FedEx.